Venezuelan ex-general surrenders to US on drug trafficking charges
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A retired Venezuelan general who was charged by the United States with "narco-terrorism" along with President Nicolas Maduro and other officials has surrendered in Colombia to US authorities, prosecutors said Saturday.
"The national Attorney General learned that Mr Cliver Alcala surrendered to US authorities," the Colombian prosecutor said in a statement, adding there was no arrest warrant when he gave himself up.
Alcala turned himself in on Friday to the Colombians, who in turn handed him over to US authorities, the El Tiempo de Bogota newspaper said. He is among several current and former top Venezuelan government officials, along with Maduro, indicted by Washington on Thursday for "narco-terrorism." The US offered a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro's capture.
As part of the US Justice Department indictment, up to $10 million was offered for the capture of Alcala, who has been living in the northern Colombian city of Barranquilla for the last two years. He was sent to New York on a flight that was granted special permission to break the total lockdown imposed by Colombia's President Ivan Duque as part of measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, El Tiempo said.
Former Venezuelan security chief Ivan Simonovis, who was welcomed by US authorities last year after escaping Venezuela following 15 years of detention under the leftist regime, told AFP he had information that Alcala was either en route to or already in New York. "Family, I say goodbye for a while. I'm facing my responsibilities for my actions with the truth," Alcala, 58, said in a video message published on his Instagram account on Friday.
The US embassy in Bogota did not respond to AFP's request for comment. The US Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration also declined to comment.
Along with Maduro, 14 top serving and former Venezuelan officials were charged with drug-trafficking by the US, among them Alcala who was a close collaborator of Maduro's predecessor, the late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez.
Alcala retired in 2013 after Chavez died of cancer and Maduro took over. The former general became an opponent of Maduro's and fled to Colombia, joining forces with Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido in his challenge to the socialist leader's authority.
Guaido is recognized as Venezuela's leader by the US and more than 50 other countries. The series of indictments against top Venezuelan officials is the latest attempt by President Donald Trump's administration to force Maduro from power.
Like Guaido, the National Assembly speaker and self-proclaimed acting president, the US considers Maduro illegitimate due to his controversial 2018 re-election in a poll widely viewed as rigged.
Maduro hit back at Trump over the indictment, describing him as a "wretched" man who "will go down in history as the most harmful and most irrational of American presidents."